By Hedwig Kröner
After spending three weeks in South Africa and staying at home with his girlfriend and daughter in Scherzingen, Switzerland, Jan Ullrich has now arrived at a T-Mobile training camp on the island of Mallorca, Spain. On Saturday, the German immediately took to the streets, the climate being relatively warm at this time of year on the Balearic island.
On Sunday, his pre-season training schedule was interrupted for a live interview with German TV ARD. One of the biggest concerns for German media being his winterly weight, Ullrich was firstly asked about his physical condition. "It's always the same topic," he responded. "During winter, I always gain 5-6 kilos and it's part of me. As long as I'm able to reduce my weight in time for the Tour de France, it shouldn't be a problem."
Ullrich admitted last year's season had not been a very successful one for him, as he could not perform at his best during the two season's highlights, the Tour and the Olympics. "This year, I want to begin early season regularly, and not exaggerate on my training as I'm susceptible to illness. Getting sick only throws you back further," he explained.
Asked if he believed the media reports saying that Armstrong wasn't going to ride this year's Tour de France, 'Der Jan' replied, "I don't really believe it. He will want to defend his title; on the other hand he's already got the absolute record. I'm rather surprised he continues racing at all! That's the main reason I believe he still targets the Tour: if it wasn't his goal anymore, he'd stop. It wouldn't surprise me if he changed his mind just before the start to race the Tour again and try to win a seventh time."
Ullrich also admitted Armstrong's participation made all the difference to him. "It would be good for the sport, and it would be good for me too. To win against the man to beat for the last six years is a great motivation and challenge especially to me. Final victory at the Tour de France is always very valuable, even without him, but it will count for more if he's there, that's for sure."
To achieve this, Ullrich knows he must be at his best - even in order to determine the leader within his own team, T-Mobile. With Alexandre Vinokourov very motivated after his bad luck in 2005 and last year's second placed Andreas Klöden also looking forward to the World's biggest road cycling race, the team captain will be the best T-Mobile man on the race in July. "Last year, Andreas Klöden was simply better than me so I supported him. This works very well in our team: the best rider gets all the support from the others. Of course, it's in my interest to train and to prepare myself as well as possible to be the one who the others are riding for, the one who gets the chance of winning the Tour."